WASHINGTON — Cecilia Malmström, trade commissioner at the European Commission, said Monday that the European Union and U.S. have made progress in advancing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations. But Malmström acknowledged there are several thorny issues and political obstacles that must be overcome on both sides of the Atlantic.
Malmström, in a speech here at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also outlined the European Union’s broader trade goals, which include strengthening labor protections and making supply chains more responsible. The EC is the executive body of the EU.
Negotiators wrapped up the ninth round of T-TIP talks in New York last week. Retailers and brands are interested in seeing the two sides eliminate tariffs on imports; streamline regulations; remove burdensome technical barriers, and eliminate redundancies in areas such as Customs procedures, product safety testing and certification, and labeling requirements. The U.S. and EU had $650 billion in two-way goods trade in 2013.
Standards and regulations covering cosmetics and chemicals have long been a source of friction between the U.S. and EU.
Malmström, who also met with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on Monday, said negotiators made “good technical progress” toward regulatory convergence, but noted the talks will “take time.”
“We have identified eight to nine different sectors where we think there is scope to recognize each other’s standards, including the car sector, cosmetics, engineering and medical devices,” she said, noting that negotiators aim to eliminate redundancies in testing while also protecting hard-fought legal standards.
Malmström said she hopes to see results on regulatory convergence by the fall. But political headwinds in the U.S. and EU have also impacted the T-TIP talks. One of the most contentious issues confronting negotiators is a provision that allows foreign investors to sue governments through arbitration. Malmström said she plans to present new ideas to address concerns to the EU Parliament this week.
The Obama administration’s focus on obtaining Congressional passage of two other trade measures — Trade Promotion Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement between the U.S. and 11 Asia-Pacific countries — has also impacted T-TIP talks, she noted.
“We are following that process very closely,” Malmström said. “I know it’s an intense debate here….That is one reason I wanted to be here in May to discuss with Mike Froman and his team and get his sense of this….It is very difficult for us to have a position on the individual paragraphs and amendments….We hope TPA and TPP can be concluded quite soon. Even if T-TIP has a parallel negotiating track, of course, it cannot be concluded before Congress has agreed on TPA.”